Ultimate Guide to Obstacle Course Racing
I want to start off by saying, if you are contemplating running in your first ever Obstacle Course Race (OCR) DOOO ITTTT! I’ve never been much of a runner and the thought of running long distance scares me. I grew some balls and ran my very first obstacle race back in August of 2014 (Spartan Sprint) and I was absolutely hooked.
A few weeks ago, I participated in my third obstacle race, the Tough Mudder Half with Aleksia and two of our close friends Kristina and Merlinda. We are all pretty active in our daily lives however, the race challenged us all in different ways. When the race was over, we were pretty much in agreement that we were going home and immediately signing up for the next race near us.
Just to put things in perspective, Here are the races I’ve participated in:
Spartan Sprint – 4 miles – 20+ obstacles
Battle Frog – 5 miles – 25+ obstacles
Tough Mudder Half – 5 miles – 13 obstacles
If you are having a hard time deciding if this is something for you, here’s a few things to keep in mind:
- This is NOT an exclusive sport – you’ll see people of all shapes, sizes and fitness levels at the starting line.
- If running scares you, you can walk. Everyone does it. TRUST ME, it’s OK.
- You can skip obstacles if you need to. Unlike the Spartan race where you have to do burpees if you don’t complete an obstacle, there is no penalty at the Tough Mudder.
- Everyone is sooo soo nice and willing to help. There are definitely obstacles that require teamwork and a lot of the time, you’re relying on complete strangers!
- You don’t have to be the strongest or fastest. Just give it your all and I guarantee you’ll be so proud of yourself once it’s over.
If you consider yourself to be active, there’s no need to go crazy on training, unless of course you’re going for time. I will say, regardless of your fitness level, you will be tested physically and mentally at some point or another!
If you do plan on training:
Most OCR events are running based. If you’re going to be partaking in any training at all, work on your endurance.
Focus on the following to build your stamina and endurance.
- Intervals – OCR races tend to happen in intervals, typically alternating between obstacles and running. Build your power and stamina by doing plenty of interval running workouts.
- Hills – Hill training increases lower body strength.
- Off Road – Run trails. The unbalanced surfaces, hills, obstacles, twists and turns all break up your stride and stabilize your muscles.
Hit the park/playground – Every obstacle race I’ve participated in, I’ve had to maneuver my way through some crazy contraptions. It kind reminds me of being a kid and running wild in the playground. Instead of hitting the gym, take your workout to a public park and navigate your way through balance beams, monkey bars etc. Get creative!
Start hydrating a day or two before the race.
This might sound weird, but trim and treat your toenails the day before your race. I’m not talking about a full on pedicure (how wonderfully indulgent that sounds) – but make sure they’re trimmed enough to not rub against your shoes or your other toes.
What to eat – Eat 1-3 hours before your race (depending on what you’re eating) to allow time for digestion. Eat food that’s easy to digest – toast, oatmeal, peanut butter, banana, energy bars.
What to bring with you (race pack) – backpack, plastic bags/trash bags, sunscreen, towel, full change of clothes (loose fitting), flip flops/sandals, face wipes, and snacks. Do not forget cash for food afterwards and paying for them to hold your bag.
What to wear – Avoid cotton! It soaks up water too much mud and water, gets heavy, and rips easily.Make sure to wear breathable clothing that’s made from technical fabric designed to keep the body dry. Tight fitting synthetic material works best for me. Shoes – Do not wear new shoes! They will get dirty and muddy and most people tend to throw them out after the race. Make sure they’re broken in to avoid blisters.
Put your hair in braids! FYI – This is the best way to keep your hair out of your face while racing HOWEVER, if it’s sunny out, make sure to use sunscreen on your head! We ran the Tough Mudder on a really hot day in August and unanimously decided to put our hair in braids. It was all fun and games until the next day when we all had blistering sunburns on the top of our heads. I cried at the time, but I’m laughing now.
Tough Mudder Recap
As I mentioned earlier, the Tough Mudder Half was about 5 miles with 13 obstacles and took us about 2 hours to complete. We started together, and finished together – no woman left behind.
The Tough Mudder half is a perfect race for someone at a beginner fitness level or someone participating in an obstacle course race for the first time. If you’re looking for more of a challenge, the Tough Mudder Full or any Spartan Race are great options.
- The teamwork element allows you to hang around obstacles and help people out. There’s no better feeling than helping someone accomplish something they didn’t think they could.
- It sets a great tone for what Obstacle Course Races are all about.
- You don’t get penalized for not being able to complete an obstacle.
- It is community based with high emphasis on helping everybody out.
- There are more team building obstacles than there are individual obstacles.
- It is not a timed event.
- It’s fun to do with a group of friends.
Now, on to the next one!